HOME CHANCE FOR STAGS TO SOAR
LIFTED by their first goals and points of the new season last weekend, Mansfield Town now have two games in four days at Field Mill to look forward to.
Kidderminster Harriers provide the opposition in League Two action on Saturday (3pm) before Championship club Preston North End are a very tough hurdle in the Carling Cup first round on Tuesday (7.45pm).
And, following the first clean sheet of the season in Saturday's 3-0 success at Chester City, manager Keith Curle said central defender Rhys Day is going to have to wait for his chance to get in the side.
A section of the travelling fans were calling Day's name during the first half at Chester after an over-hit forward ball by Day's fellow central defender Dave Artell, who otherwise had a solid game.
But Curle said: "I pick the team and it's nothing to do with favourites.
"Dave Artell has earned the right to be in the side at the moment. He got into the team and has taken his opportunity.
"Rhys must do the same when his chance comes. He has been fantastic about it and knows he is 10 days behind Dave in fitness terms.
"People pay their money to come in and can shout what they like.
"The pleasing thing was that Dave Artell wasn't affected by it and did a great job for us.
"We have good competition for places with everyone breathing down each other's necks and you have to get in and give a performanfce that warrants you staying in the team.
"We are only three games in and already we have people trying to pick the team for me. Individually and collectively I thought we did well on Saturday.
"So I would hope the fans will get behind the whole team. Every player out there is doing his best for this football club."
Another player under fire at times on Saturday was skipper and goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington whose handling was not up to his usual high standard on the day.
However, Curle added: "It was only a minority again who had a go, most of our fans on Saturday were magnificent.
"Kevin takes stick week in, week out - he never seems to be one of the 'superstar favourites' and yet he always does his job in a very professional manner and, as manager, I am more than happy with him."
Curle was much keener to look at the sunnier side of Saturday's success with a man-of-the-match display by young full back Jake Buxton one of the highlights.
"I decided to drop Adam Eaton as he told me he only thought he could get through 90 minutes with his current lack of sharpness," said Curle.
"I need people out there able to compete. So Jake was put in and showed why he is at this football club.
"He gave a great account of himself and scored a goal. But his main job is to defend and he did that well too.
"Last season he came in and had a spell of seven or eight games in the side. Unfortunately, he just played one game too many as first team football took its toll on him.
"Now he must keep showing the same aggression and determination, crisp tackling and confidence on the ball that he showed on Saturday."
On an afternoon when a much-improved second half showing saw Stags score three times, Derek Asamoah celebrated his first goal for the club while Colin Larkin hammered home an early candidate for goal of the season.
"Overall I thought it was a good display away from home," said Curle.
"Already we had people muttering that we won't be in the automatic promotion places after our first two games - but why not?
"I have always believed we would be successful this season.
"Against Oxford and Bristol Rovers we created chances but didn't put them away.
"Against Chester we had maybe five chances and put three away.
"We didn't get cut open in the first two games - all three goals were down to sloppy mistakes.
"At Chester we had 70 per cent of the game. Our first half display gave us a foothold, though we started off a bit cautious.
"We knew how Chester would play and we nullified them.
"At half-time I told them I wanted more tempo and Chester just couldn't live with it.
"You could sense the relief of the players when that first goal of the season finally went in. You got the feeling - now we've started."
Now Stags must carry on that form against an unbeaten Kidderminster side that beat Darlington 1-0 on Saturday to add to the two draws already in the bag.
"We've had Kidderminster watched a couple of times," said Curle.
"They have had a good start and have been playing an unusual formation - kind of a 4-2-1-3.
"They do like to play passing football and get everyone back behind the ball when they are defending.
"We need to get them on the back foot early on and I know we will score goals.
"I am sure Adam Murray is looking forward to a game against his old club. I was very pleased with his work ethic on Saturday. he didn't give them any time or room and I believe midfield was where the game was won.
Stags will then take on Preston in the Carling Cup first round on Tuesday.
And they have been told they will have to do without on-loan Preston striker Joe O'Neill.
Curle believed Preston had initially agreed they would allow O'Neill to play, but North End have now said no.
"Preston are a good footballing team and are very dangerous," said Curle.
"We will have to be at 100 per cent to get something out of the tie.
"But I know we will throw the kitchen sink at them like we did against Sunderland last season when we gave a great account of ourselves.
"We will play the game at 100mph and see if Preston can handle it."
ROBINSON WAITS ON DECISION
MARVIN Robinson was given his chance to impress in Stags' 3-1 friendly reserve defeat at Leicester City yesterday afternoon.
Former Derby County target man Robinson has been on an extended trial at Field Mill since injuring an ankle in a friendly at Worksop.
But now back to fitness, he was given 90 minutes to show what he can do at Leicester and Stags boss Keith Curle is expected to make a decision on Robinson's future in the next day or two.
Rhys Day, Alex Neil, Lee Williamson, Wayne Corden, and Chris Tate were also given 80 minutes of action before Mansfield ended the game with a youth team line-up.
Neil had given Mansfield the lead, but City were level by the break before adding two second half goals.
Whether or not Robinson proves to be the one, Curle said: "Ideally I want five strikers here and, although I do not have a transfer kitty as such, I know the chairman will make money available for the right players.
"Maybe there will be a quality youngster at a higher league club who is not quite ready to play a game for his club and his progress is being slightly halted.
"He could come here and do us a job and we will see if we can unearth a gem."
Stags are also looking to fix up an away reserve friendly at Nottingham Forest next week, possibly on Wednesday afternoon.
Darren Barnard, who has done his pre-season training with Stags and appeared in some of their friendly matches, has now left the club.
Stags boss Curle decided he had enough cover for the left back spot and Barnard has now moved on to Conference club Aldershot where he helped them to a 2-0 win over York City last weekend.
Latest | August 2004